Reading, Writing, Thinking

The Twin Souls of Oscar Wilde and Friedrich Nietzsche

Yahia Lababidi meditates on the aesthetics and ethics of two great contrarians.

The externals of their lives could not be more different. One was a celebrated wit and dramatist, the other a reclusive philosopher who lived and wrote in relative obscurity; yet to varying extents and with varying results, both thought of themselves as poets. Both also, in their ways, concerned themselves with founding a philosophy grounded in the art of living, turned to Ancient Greece for their aesthetic ideal, and considered contemporary France the heir to its sensual sophistication. Natural born provocateurs, they were both incorrigible cultural agitators who reserved some of their most withering criticism for their ‘so-called countrymen’. Although contemporaries, they were probably unaware of each other, yet both came in their flamboyant personas and utterances to embody the tensions and antagonisms of fin de siècle Europe.

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